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Journal

Marching right along, it’s my sensory pleasure to introduce one of my personal favorite tea types–Charcoal Roasted Dong-Ding.  Charcoal roasted Dong-Ding has become about as crucial to my everyday survival as Wuyi Yan Cha oolongs, and that’s saying something!  Although we’ve recently had some really nice “contemporary”-style Dong Ding oolongs, I’ve still been hoping to get hold of some more traditionally roasted (with charcoal, rather than a baking machine) tea.  Though both methods will caramelize a tea’s sweetness, a well-done charcoal roast adds both a note of roast as well as a dynamic connection with the earth that just isn’t there when a machine is used–surely traditional Chinese medicine would favor traditional charcoal roasting because it adds the element of fire to the tea processing, which contributes balance.  Unfortunately even machine roasting isn’t very fashionable right now and judges are choosing greener and greener teas as competition winners.  Combine this with the fact that charcoal roasting is a difficult skill that is being passed down to fewer and fewer tea masters and you can see how a good traditional Dong Ding is becoming harder to find and more expensive. 

Let me tell you–it’s worth it.  This tea is an excellent example of a lighter charcoal-roasted Dong-Ding: the charcoal note is present in the tea flavor, but it doesn’t dominate.  The tea’s natural floral notes are still preserved but are made slightly acidic by the roast–the lively acidity is evident in the cup where the tea liquor starts out light orange but darkens quickly as it cools down and interacts with the air.  The brewed leaves don’t quite pop open as completely as green oolong, which is another sign of a healthy charcoal roast.  

It’s too bad that charcoal roasted Taiwanese oolongs are becoming more difficult to find abroad–it’s hard to understand how both green oolong and traditional oolong can’t just coexist equally on their respective merits, but popularity ultimately determines the availability of a tea.  For now, at least, we can appreciate the best of both worlds!

Elliot

Before we continue with the final three new-new-longs, it’s time for a quick introduction of three we’ve been remiss in mentioning.  These teas, also supplied by Drew, have been enjoyed by Miro customers since mid-November.  They include two Dong-Ding oolongs and a High Mountain Baozhong.

The first Dong-Ding is called “Xiao Ban Tian,” and it’s the greener of the two.  This tea is an excellent option for those interested in branching out from our Lishan and Alishan oolongs; it’s floral and full-bodied with less of a vegetal note than the Alishan and a bit more of a light fruity note than the Lishan.  As you can see in the above picture, the tightly-balled leaves have a nice coat of down, indicating they were plucked quite young.  As processing fashions change, I’m hard-pressed to identify what exactly defines a Dong-Ding as a Dong-Ding–I usually expect them to be more oxidized and roasted, but this is a solid high mountain oolong.  According to Drew, “Dong-Ding” can be fairly applied to any teas from the Lugu region, which clears up the confusion on the appellation but still leaves us unsure what to expect a Dong-Ding to taste like until we actually try it!

The second Dong-Ding is from a mountain called Shan Lin Xi, one of the three most famous Taiwanese mountains.  Its processing is more what I’d expect for a Dong-Ding–the leaves have received a light machine roast, visibly darkening their color just a tad.  The liquor is still pure like the Xiao Ban Tian, but the roast accentuates the fruity note.  Since we’ve been serving it, this tea has become even more exciting–it won the gold medal in the bi-annual Lugu Tea Competition.  Lucky for us, we got ahold of our stock before the competition–gold medal winners increase drastically in price and supply becomes instantly scarce!

Finally there’s our new High Mountain Baozhong.  Baozhong is a classic Taiwanese tea–famed for both its loose, stripe-rolled appearance and its unparalleled floral notes.  This organic Baozhong is totally au natural–it’s quite stemmy, which adds a little rustic element to its appeal. 

The flavor, though, is classic Baozhong; lighter than pellet-rolled high mountain oolong, but with a floral nose that goes on and on.  Baozhong is another great alternative to the standard high mountain teas, and it’s also quite enjoyable iced.

Join us next time for another of our brand new teas–a traditional Charcoal-Roasted Dong-Ding!
Elliot